Survivors of a bus crash involving 19 Tauranga iwi members were embraced by their loved ones in an emotional powhiri when they reunited more than 24 hours after the accident.

All but one of the survivors from Ngāi Te Rangi had returned to Tauranga Moana after the bus they were in crashed into a ditch on State Highway 1 near Sanson on August 1.

Ngāi Te Rangi's chief executive Paora Stanley said one person remained in hospital at Palmerston North where the victims were admitted following Thursday's crash.

Stanley said there were feelings of relief that their loved ones were home safe when they returned to their Mount Maunganui marae on Friday night.


"It was a very emotional time ... there was lots of crying. There is nothing like being home," he said.

"My job was to bring our whanau home."

It was an emotional day for the survivors who were coming back from Wellington where they had been protesting the Pare Hauraki Treaty settlement deed signing at Parliament.

Tears ran down the face of the Ngāi Te Rangi chief as he learned where his beloved aunty was when the bus crashed into the ditch.

She was at the front of the bus which had partially submerged under water.

"She said, 'I just managed to stick my nose above the water'," Stanley said.

"I just cried for a long time. My aunty ... she is the closest thing to a mother I have now, it was particularly tough."

Stanley said everyone had escaped major injuries but some were left traumatised by the incident.


A former member of the Royal New Zealand Navy, Stanley said he had been exposed to many traumatic experiences and understood his whanau were left shaken despite being cleared from hospital on Thursday.

"That night a lot of the people slept with their lights on which is not unusual ... when you have gone through a traumatic event like that, you want the safety of the lights on."

Stanley said each person would be checked up on, on Monday now the majority of survivors had returned home.

He said the iwi would also invite trauma counsellors on to the marae for the victims.

"I have got a lot of staff who were there at the time who were pretty traumatised," he said.

"Some of them were following in vehicles behind so they saw what happened."

They were also trying to replace some of the items that were lost in the crash.

"There are people who lost prescription glasses ... lots of people lost their wallets, a lot of people lost their cellphones. But nobody lost their lives, which is a blessing."

Stanley said the victims of the crash had asked for privacy but said the accident had not turned them off having their voices heard on the controversial signing of the Pare Hauraki Treaty settlement deed.

"It has just made us stronger, one of our senior kaumatua said that."

The iwi chief has refuted reports that the bus had failed a Certificate of Fitness as recently as 2013 and was the same brand as one involved in a fatal crash last weekend.

A police media spokeswoman understood the police Commercial Vehicle Safety Team was investigating.